Mairi St. John Macdonald and
Joan Brown Hicks:
BY CHRISTINA STARR
Mairi St. John Macdonald was the first national president of CCLOW. Her term began at the Banff congress in 1979 and she served until Lenore Rogers took her place in 1982. Joan Brown Hicks is a sister CCLOW-Nova Scotia member and was CCLOW's president for 1985-86. She joined CCLOW as Nova Scotia director in 1979 after Mairi vacated the post to become president, but the friendship between the two goes back to when they were both involved in the Nova Scotia Task Force on the Status of Women in 1975.
Mairi studied agriculture at McGill University before she knew it was a "non-traditional" interest for her, and became involved in the Rural Problems club, in Macdonald College at McGill, before she realized the problems addressed were mostly issues for women. She did her doctorate in Adult Education and Counselling at the University of Toronto and joined Seneca College in the same city as the first Director of Counselling. After five years she moved to Halifax to become the Director of Continuing Education at Mount Saint Vincent University and was there for three years before being asked to chair the provincial Task Force on the Status of Women, for International Women's Year.
"It was similar to my exploring agriculture because I didn't realize at the time what exactly we were to do and how well it would all work out," she says. Regardless of her unfamiliarly with the process, or perhaps because of it, Mairi, with her colleagues, initiated several practices that are now considered models for feminism and adult education alike. "There were seven people on the task force and I didn't know any of them before we started. But we realized if we were going to accomplish something of value we had to establish a basis of trust. So we spent time those first few meetings sharing about ourselves, our values, and whether we really believed in the task that was before us."